Sony Pictures Entertainment, under pressure from activist investor Daniel Loeb, is eyeing at least $100 million in budget cuts and has hired consultancy Bain & Co. to examine the studio's expenditures, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
The cuts are likely to result in layoffs at the studio, which is reeling after several of its high-profile summer releases performed poorly. Sony Pictures, owned by Tokyo-based electronics and media giant Sony Corp., is expected to announce its hiring of Bain & Co. at a Thursday conference for investors, a source said.
On Oct. 31, Sony Pictures posted an operating loss of $181 million for the company's fiscal second quarter, a major contributor to its overall poor performance for the quarter ending Sept. 30, when it lost $197 million overall.
The studio has been under assault by Loeb since May, when he proposed that Sony should make an initial public stock offering of up to 20% of its entertainment arm, which includes the film and television studio and Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Sony Music Entertainment.
In July, Loeb, whose hedge fund Third Point owns about 7% of Sony, criticized Sony Entertainment for being "poorly managed," appraising the situation in a letter to Third Point investors.
Loeb labeled two disappointing Sony Pictures summer releases -- the Will Smith action movie "After Earth" and the Channing Tatum vehicle "White House Down" -- "2013's versions of 'Waterworld' and 'Ishtar' back-to-back," a reference to two of the most famous flops of all time. Sony rejected Loeb's proposal in August.
Sony Pictures spokesman Charles Sipkins declined to comment, but released a statement, saying: "As part of a nearly four year process of increasing fiscal discipline, Sony Pictures is conducting a review of its business to identify further efficiencies. Our objective is, and always has been, to operate an efficient studio that is uniquely positioned to capitalize on future growth opportunities."
Sony Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton, also chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures, is expected to address the cost-cutting at the Thursday meeting.
According to the source with knowledge of the matter, a representative of Third Point is expected to attend the event at Sony's Culver City lot. The private event, for buy- and sell-side investors, will be shown live in a webcast.
Third Point declined to comment.
The studio has already taken steps to respond to Loeb, and the disappointing run at the box office. In September, Sony Pictures fired Marc Weinstock, then its head of domestic and international marketing.
When Sony rejected Loeb's proposal, President and CEO Kazuo Hirai said in a letter to the hedge fund investor that the company would "increase disclosure regarding Sony’s entertainment businesses. We agree this can help market participants analyze their performance and monitor their success."
Sony's biggest 2013 duds were "After Earth," which has grossed a disappointing $244 million worldwide; and "White House Down," which has taken in $205 million globally, according to Box Office Mojo. "Smurfs 2" also underperformed, taking in $347 million worldwide -- far from the original 2009 movie's $564 million global gross. But the studio has recently found success with the Tom Hanks-starring thriller "Captain Phillips." That film has grossed $164 million worldwide since being released Oct. 11.
The New York Times first reported news of the prospective cuts and Bain & Co.'s hiring.
Shares of Sony were up 22 cents to $18.72 on Monday.
Bain & Co. did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
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